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Title: Reconfigurable assembly system design methodology for aerospace wing structures
Author: Jefferson, Thomas G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6351 8675
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2017
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The aerospace industry is facing new challenges to meet burgeoning customer demand. An unprecedented number of orders for commercial aircraft has placed great urgency on aerospace manufacturers to make gains in production efficiency. Wing assembly is one such area where cycle times are in the order of hundreds of hours and commissioning cells can take several years which has led to a significant order backlog. In light of these challenges, new techniques are required to bring about greater agility to respond to market changes. Aerospace manufacturers must seize the opportunity to innovate and readdress approaches to ensure their prosperity. Recent research advocates Reconfigurable Assembly Systems (RAS) as a viable solution. A RAS is designed at the outset to change in structure to modify production capacity and functionality to meet new requirements. Yet, adding reconfigurability further increases design complexity. Despite the increased complexity, few formal methodologies exist to support RAS design for aerostructures. A novel RAS design methodology is presented to address the design complexity and the specific needs of Airbus. The methodology is a systems design approach consisting of reconfigurability principles, Axiomatic Design and Design Structure Matrices. Customer needs and existing knowledge are used to systematically specify scalable and customisable functionalities from the outset. These requirements and constraints are then translated into physical system designs modelled using CATIA, a 3D modelling software suite. The design methodology is applied in two case studies for wing assembly to produce full-scale factory designs. The designs are compared with current Airbus baselines in production ramp-up scenarios. The RAS demonstrate capability to change in structure for rapid increase in capacity at comparable cost to fixed systems. Greater capacity and shortened ramp-up time evidently reduces backlog compared to current systems. The first case study focused on technical development of a RAS and found potential ramp-up reduction of 88% and 10% less Capital Expenditure (CapEx) over 10 years. The second case study for a current wing scenario found reductions of 50% to ramp-up and 41% less tooling CapEx compared to a pulse line for a 12-year production cycle. The designs and scenarios were validated in formal Airbus design reviews. The case studies present the first instances of production-scale RAS for aerostructures. The RAS designs are made possible by designing from the outset using a novel design methodology which sets a precedent for the future of aerostructure assembly and opens up new possibilities for future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Eng.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics